The Real House Leadership Crisis
October 15, 2015 3 Comments
The big news of the past few weeks is the House Republicans’ revolt against John Boehner, who is being forced out as Speaker of the House, setting off an odd scramble over who can avoid taking his place. (The latest person to not want to be Speaker is Paul Ryan.) On social media, the running joke is to compare Speaker of the House to other jobs nobody seems to be able to hold: number two man in al-Qaeda, Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, drummer for Spinal Tap.
The leadership battle is driven by a sense of inchoate frustration at the House leadership’s inability to achieve much of the right’s agenda, despite being given majorities in both houses of Congress. […]
So long as Obama and the Democrats can use a government shutdown as a credible threat, they neutralize House Republicans’ power of the purse. And so long as that’s the case, the House GOP can’t do anything substantial. They’re reduced to pleading, “We can’t do anything until we have the Senate,” and then, “We can’t do anything until we have the presidency.” And eventually the Republican base and the Tea Party types get fed up and conclude that Republican leaders never really wanted to do anything in the first place, that they’re just marking time before they can go to K Street or Wall Street and cash out. (Which is partly correct.)
Source: The Real House Leadership Crisis
The reason that the House was given the power of the purse is that it is the chamber that is most responsive to the people, well in theory anyway, K street and Wall Street weren’t quite as important (maybe) in the founder’s time. But there were other pressures.
The power of the purse is the power to burn it all down. It came to the House of Representatives from the House of Commons, who in practically living memory of the founders had used it to not only incite the English Civil War but even to end the Monarchy. Their problem was that they only had Cromwell, not Jefferson and company to put it all together again.
But it takes leadership, and guts, and a vision of not how things are, but of how they could be, and vision is pretty rare in all generations. And visionary leadership is probably not the best way to get elected to the Congress or to a leadership position in the Republican (or Democratic) party. And it surely won’t get you a cushy job with a lobbyist when you’re done either.
That’s pretty much the problem though.